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Whitechapel area guide

For bustling markets, fiery curries and diverse art exhibitions, multicultural Whitechapel is well worth exploring

WhitechapelRoad013.jpg
© Kara GowlettWhitechapel Road Market,

Although this was once Jack the Ripper’s east London stomping ground, the closest you’ll come to peril in today’s Whitechapel is by dining out on authentically fiery Bangladeshi or Punjabi curry. The multicultural area has them by the bucketload in joints as popular as long-standing Tayyabs – the restaurant has been going strong since 1972, doubtless thanks to its cheap eats and BYO policy. Bustling Whitechapel Market offers just as much in the diversity stakes, or you can take in culture the traditional way, with a browse around Whitechapel Gallery’s contemporary exhibitions.

What are your favourite Whitechapel hangouts? Let us know in the comments.

Love London Awards: this year's winners

Restaurants

Kolapata

Opened in 2005, Kolapata – ‘banana leaf’ in Bengali – has been a leading destination to experience Bangladeshi cooking in London. The restaurant is modest, cheap and very popular with local Bangladeshis. When the food is freshly cooked and the full complement of chefs from Dhaka is in the kitchen, the flavours and freshness sing; expect a large range of grilled dishes and curries, and look for the list of house specials including starters, fish dishes and biryanis.

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
Stepney City Farm Cafe
Restaurants

Stepney City Farm Cafe

An impressive little eatery at the Stepney City Farm. Expect freshly baked breads and salads and sandwiches made with vegetables and herbs produced on the farm. The meats are good, too - it's all sourced from Ginger Pig. 

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
The Urban Chocolatier
Shopping

The Urban Chocolatier

Selection boxes, truffles, bars and drinks – if it’s brown and sweet, you’ll probably find it for sale at this luxury chocolate shop

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
Genesis Cinema Whitechapel

Genesis Cinema Whitechapel

Lucky old Whitechapel. They get to have the gorgeous Genesis as their local. Not only is it cheap, but it's also been beautifully renovated in the past two years by guys who design film sets for a living (try knocking the bricks upstairs on the mezzanine level). The end result is pretty much a perfect local cinema, where you’ll find proper old East End ladies drinking coffee next to cool kids on laptops in the café. There’s a bar upstairs, and if you want to fill your face, you’re in for a treat. Choose between crodoughs from nearby 100-year-old bakery Rinkoffs, or the snack bar with a wall of Pick ’n’ Mix or jumbo hotdogs from World’s Wurst (terrible name, brilliant bangers, from £3.90). Book seats in the Studio 5 boutique screening room with armchairs and a cosy bar for a date.

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
Buy
The Horn of Plenty
Bars and pubs

The Horn of Plenty

Venue says: “Voted the Best Pub in Stepney & Whitechapel 2015, 2016 and 2018 by Time Out London's Love London Awards!”

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
See the full results of this year's Love London Awards

Restaurants in Whitechapel

Tayyabs
Restaurants Book online

Tayyabs

We’ve featured Tayyabs every year since it opened in 1972, and every year it gets busier and busier. From its original premises in a small café, it has gradually swallowed up the pub next door. If you come here expecting a relaxing evening, cheery service or an intimate atmosphere, you’ll be disappointed: this is a full-on, massive, hectic, loud, in-and-out sort of place. Also, if you come here without booking, expect to wait up to an hour for a table. But we recommend this Punjabi stalwart wholeheartedly because of the cheapness and unreserved boldness of the food. Don’t even think about visiting without trying the fiery grilled lamb chops, which is still one of London’s best dishes. The rest of the menu is all about rich dahls and masala channa; unctuous, slow-cooked lamb curries; and good versions of North Indian staples – onion bhaji, spice-rubbed tikka, hot, buttery breads and juicy kebabs. Regulars look to the daily specials, such as Karahi lamb chop curry on Thursdays, or meat biryani on Fridays. The corkage-free BYO policy doesn’t do its popularity any harm either.

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
Users say
3 out of 5 stars
Book online
Needoo Grill
Restaurants

Needoo Grill

In the great battle of the Whitechapel lamb chop – an unofficial war being waged between Needoo and its nearby neighbours Tayyabs and Lahore Kebab House – it’s hard to pick a winner. The sizzling plates of succulent lamb that you get here aren’t cooked to pink excellence like at Lahore, and aren’t as pungent as at Tayyabs, but they are spiced to absolute perfection. Opened in 2009 by a former Tayyabs manager, this squashed space doesn’t suffer from the same problem of endless queues (though you will usually have a wait), but it is just as gaudy. Bright red walls, leather benches and blaring flatscreen TVs are the order of the day, yet with curries this good, the decor just fades into the background. What you get are succulent karahi dishes and specials that include nihari (lamb on the bone) and a very passable biriani. Pakoras and other pre-prepared snacks can often be disappointingly stale, but service is swift and friendly, and it’s hard to argue with the appeal of BYOB and curries of such high standard.

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
Users say
3 out of 5 stars
Miss Chu
Restaurants

Miss Chu

This little hole in the wall stretches back through a long corridor furnished with seating to an open kitchen at the back. Classic Vietnamese street and café food is produced both for a busy takeaway and delivery business and for eat-in customers packed on to tiny tables below and array of artful hanging lamps. It’s stylishly decorated: the Laos-born owner has many years of experience running restaurants in Sydney, where she moved as a child refugee. Specials are chalked on a blackboard; orders are taken at the kitchen counter. We rated our pho (beef noodle soup) as having a good stock – even the vegetarian version, loaded with shiitake mushrooms, gave great umami, and the noodles were pert but slippery. The bahn mi (filled baguette) was fine; there’s a lot of competition in London, and we’ve had many better. The giant-sized summer rolls were disappointing, being mostly filled with flavourless vermicelli; we had expected better from the self-proclaimed ‘queen of rice paper rolls’. But overall, a big thumbs-up for good food and fair pricing. Reviewed by Guy Dimond

Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Lupita East
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Lupita East

Lupita East is the sister branch to the flagship Mexican restaurant in central London. Much like its sister, the laid-back east London restaurant specialises in traditional tacos, but also serves Mexican favourites such as burritos, quesadillas and tostadas.

Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Book online

Things to do in Whitechapel

Whitechapel Market
Shopping

Whitechapel Market

Stretching between Vallance Road and Cambridge Heath Road, the lively Whitechapel Market has every type of speciality Asian ingredient you’ll ever need. It's also well stocked with fruit and veg, cut-price toiletries, phone cards, cheap fashion, haberdashery essentials, flowers and fabrics. From Whitechapel Market, you can look west along the high street to where the Gherkin stands out above the City. It might as well be the Emerald City for all the relevance it has here: this is a non-stop, heaving, all-weather, cacophonous East End micro-economy, born of pragmatism rather than fashion and largely sustained by local Bangladeshis.

Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Whitechapel Gallery
Art

Whitechapel Gallery

This East End stalwart reopened in 2009 following a major redesign and expansion that saw the Grade II listed building transformed into a vibrant, holistic centre of art complete with a research centre, archives room and café. Since 1901, Whitechapel Art Gallery has built on its reputation as a pioneering contemporary institution and is well remembered for premiering the talents of exhibitions by Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Frida Kahlo among others. Expect the rolling shows to be challenging and risqué.

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
3 out of 5 stars

Bars and pubs in Whitechapel

Apples & Pears
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Apples & Pears

This slick little bar at the unfashionable end of Brick Lane hosts club nights, live acoustic music, comedy, film screenings and variety events. Serving wine, beer and cocktails plus food, it's also available for private hire.

Users say
5 out of 5 stars
Book online
Ten Bells
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Ten Bells

Firmly on the Shoreditch circuit, this prominent, stripped-down corner pub is party central, a century or so after its clientele included Jack the Ripper’s last victim enjoying her final drink. Press cuttings and other Ripperana line the stairs to the toilets, but while the current owners have kept the pub’s original tiling (amazing it is, too), they’ve played the alternative card by chucking in busted sofas, ’60s cinema seats and a glitterball. 

Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Book online
Culpeper
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Culpeper

The ‘seasonal and local food’ mantra is taken to silly heights at this gastropub in the heart of London’s East End, where salad leaves and some herbs for the kitchen are grown in planters on the roof garden. It’s a bit of fun – and maybe a bit of on-trend window-dressing too. No roof garden can keep a busy kitchen in produce. But ignore the pathos of such tokenism, because everything else about this pub – drinks, service, ambience and, above all, the excellent dishes – towers over any commitment to high-level horticulture. Culpeper (formerly the Princess Alice) occupies a corner site facing Petticoat Lane Market. It was a Truman’s pub for much of the last 130 years, and remains a handsome Victorian inn, with the brewery signage preserved. The new owners have improved the frontage, laid beautiful parquet floors, installed a curvaceous bar and added industrial-style lighting – the result is a treat, fitting perfectly with both building and location. Even more useful than adding a roof garden or having a good eye for Ercol chairs is being able to pick a good chef. Sandy Jarvis was formerly head chef at the acclaimed Terroirs, and his style is recognisable: unfussy dishes; simple presentation; great terrines; a focus on flavour. ‘Pig’s head’ croquettes contained shreds of unctuous pork, their flavour-packed fattiness contrasting with the sharp and vinegary tang of pickled walnuts. A ploughman’s was equally to the point: peppery, rich meat with a simple pickle, an apple and a w

Time Out says
4 out of 5 stars
Users say
4 out of 5 stars
Book online
Pride of Spitalfields
Bars and pubs

Pride of Spitalfields

Miraculously, this supremely unpretentious little boozer continues to thrive just off Brick Lane, its modest charms seemingly not appealing to the whinnying fashionistas of Shoreditch or the suited-and-booted city curry hunters. The lively mixed crowd in here includes an old guard of regulars, the odd bewildered tourist and some thirtysomething art and music types relieved to find their East End bolthole still as welcoming as ever, while behind the tiny bar, a surprising number of unflappable staff dispense beautifully kept ales without treading on each other's toes. The beer selection is unlikely to be exotic, keeping to familiar British ales from Fuller’s, Truman and some smaller breweries. A little shabby around the edges perhaps - 'A pub with carpet? How quaint' - but this is a London drinker with character rather than an image.

Time Out says
5 out of 5 stars
Users say
5 out of 5 stars